All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it.
My last relationship started to fall apart over what I initially thought was a minor miscommunication. I had written something pithy and sarcastic, which he read as passive aggressive, and somehow the whole thing turned into this enormous fiasco. We’re talking knock-down, drag-out misery for days on end. Even when I begged for a pass, an acknowledgement that my intentions were good even if his reading of them was not, he still couldn’t let go of the implications of a literal reading of my e-mail. I should have seen the thing for the red flag it was. Obviously, he and I had radically different ways of communicating. I’m hyperbolic and sarcastic most of the time. The last thing I need in my life is someone too literal-minded. Everyone who likes me tolerates my constant exaggeration and distortion of events.
I tell you this because some people have commented that the picture at the top of my blog had changed from the photo of graffiti reading “fuck this world” to the more prosaic (ha!) image you now see of English bear-baiting. Several people had suggested that the original image might be offputting to new readers. While I’ll readily take suggestions (unabashed reader monger!), I do want to say that the entire “fuck this world” photo is really fantastic. My friend A (another one – this pseudo-anonymous acronym plan is getting problematic, as I seem to have an inordinate amount of friends whose names begin with A, B, M, and S) and I happened upon that graffiti during our time together in Berlin. The whole photo consists of me standing beneath the graffiti, appearing to be blithely unaware of its presence while I read my Lonely Planet Berlin guidebook. We thought that was hi-larious. In fact, I thought it was so funny that I made my mom repeat the basic premise when we happened upon some similar graffiti in Vienna. This time, someone had scratched out “Kill a racist, just for fun!” on an electrical panel and I posed next to it, carefully reading my Lonely Planet Vienna guidebook. Get it?! Because I’m an oblivious tourist!
Obviously, I might just have a sick sense of what it means to “tone things down” a bit. I discovered the current image of bear-baiting on a blog about the history of pit-bulls. Can we just talk for a moment about what a terrific metaphor bear-baiting is for this little blog? Bear-baiting as a sport was a serious attraction in England from the 16th through the 19th century. The main bear-garden in London was called (drumroll please) the Paris Garden (!) at Southwark. A bear-garden is a large circular pit surrounded by seating. In the center, a bear is chained either by its leg or its neck, and ferocious dogs are set upon it in waves. Some sport! Sometimes they would switch it up and bait different animals, including one occasion where they baited a pony with an ape tied to its back. The Puritans rightly wanted to see an end to the barbarity of bear-baiting, but it took nearly three hundred years of protest to formally ban the sport in England. While bear-baiting has been banned in the UK for nearly a century and is prohibited in most US states where bears live, it is still a popular sport in the Punjab and Sindh provinces of Pakistan. There isn’t much a linguistic residue of the practice in English, but my boyfriend Wikipedia tells me that “because the practice is time consuming and disrupts a person’s daily schedule, the term ‘bear baiting’ is sometimes used in Alaska to mean ‘screwing around.’” Beyond the obvious spatial concordances between a bear-garden and a blog where somebody writes about puking in public, don’t you love the idea of some Alaskan being like “That blogger girl has way too much time on her hands for bear baiting!”
Anyway, I just wanted to tell you it’s just a metaphor, dear reader, and we in no way condone animal cruelty here at Keeping the Bear Garden in the Background. We do rather unapologetically eat a lot of animals around here, but we have nothing but fond feelings towards bears in general.